White Sox ‘tough team to watch,’ says Ken Harrelson, one of their biggest fans

“There’s so many holes there,” Harrelson said of the 2023 team. “And they just don’t have leaders on the ballclub.”

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Ken Harrelson acknowledges the crowd on Hawk Day on September 2, 2018 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Former White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson is just as disappointed as the fans with the team’s performance this season.

David Banks/Getty Images

Ken Harrelson would have White Sox fans know this: He feels your pain.

“It’s been a tough team to watch,” the retired Hall of Fame broadcaster told the Sun-Times on Wednesday. “It’s been one of the most disappointing seasons of my major-league career.”

Not everyone has sided with Harrelson’s takes during his 42 years of broadcasting, but it’s safe to say he’d get close to 100% agreement on that one about the Sox, who entered their game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field — still Harrelson’s least favorite ballpark, by the way — with a 48-72 record.

This coming from one of the franchise’s biggest fans.

“There’s so many holes there,” Harrelson said of the 2023 team. “And they just don’t have leaders on the ballclub.”

That said, Harrelson did take issue with Keynan Middleton calling out the Sox’ culture in the clubhouse after he was traded to the Yankees last month. In Harrelson’s view, it wasn’t the place for Middleton, a journeyman reliever, to speak up.

“He’s no Goose Gossage,” Harrelson said. “I thought it was a cop-out, talking about there was no culture there. That’s a bunch of s---. It really is. The players make the culture. Not the managers or coaches, except in some cases like [2005 World Series-winning manager] Ozzie [Guillen].”

Harrelson doesn’t blame first-year manager Pedro Grifol for the team’s problems.

“He can only play with what the front office gives him,” Harrelson said. “I haven’t seen anything that would cause me to blame Grifol at all.”

And what of chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, a target of media and especially fans fed up with the team?

“Nobody is hurting more than Jerry, I can guarantee you that,” Harrelson said. “I know Jerry about as well as anybody, and I feel so bad for him. People have been on him for being cheap, but we had the seventh-highest payroll last year and the [14th]-highest payroll in all of baseball this year and the biggest payroll in the Central Division.”

On a recent podcast with A.J. Pierzynski, Harrelson suggested Reinsdorf sell the team, but he regrets saying it now.

“I was concerned about his health because he loves the game so much,” Harrelson said. “There’s never been a man that I knew that I had more respect for than Jerry Reinsdorf. And I’ve played golf with presidents, vice presidents, a lot of people.

“Jerry is the most honorable person, and he’s honorable to a fault sometimes because of his loyalty. And there’s some changes that have to be made there, and whether or not he’ll make them, I don’t know.”

Harrelson, who will be 82 on Sept. 4, said that his health is good and that he receives more fan mail now than ever. He spends a good a portion of his day watching reruns of “Gunsmoke,” “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Judge Judy” at his home in Granger, Indiana.

He’s also a big fan of the Sox’ pre- and postgame shows with Chuck Garfien, “Ozzie and Big Frank [Thomas].”

“That’s entertainment,” he said.

As is watching the Sox whenever they beat the Cubs.

“Always,” he said before tuning in again Wednesday night. “Always.”

“And if I was broadcasting today, they’d have to get someone else to do it because I still wouldn’t want to set foot in Wrigley Field.”

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